30 August 2006

File this under 'Headlines luaphacim Can't Resist'

Cannibal teacher may have had fourth victim

Seriously, isn't that irresistible? You clicked on it, didn't you? Go on, admit it.

This tickles my funny bone :-)

Note from the LuapHacim, 11/14/2012: The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect my current beliefs and convictions. Even if they do, I would almost certainly express them in different words today. Time changes people, and I am not exempt. Nonetheless, because of its historical value, I will not modify or remove this post. It tells you (and me) something important about where I've been. Read on at your own peril.

Sorry for the long absence; life has gotten in the way.

This makes me smile:
[Iranian president] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad shrugged off tomorrow's U.N.-imposed deadline for Iran to halt its nuclear program and said he and Bush should take their dispute to the airwaves.

"I suggest holding a live TV debate with Mr. George W. Bush to talk about world affairs and the ways to solve those issues," he said in a rare press conference in Tehran. "The debate should be uncensored, in order for the American people to be able to listen to what we say, and they should not restrict the American people from hearing the truth."
Isn't that the best idea evar? The world's two least sane leaders in the same place, at the same time, talking at one another about the same topic.

One wonders if Bush's non sequiturs and rhetorical missteps would be able to hobble Ahmadinejad's twisted, outrageous, brilliant insanity. Either way, I'd watch it.

14 August 2006

Megachurches: Shearing the Sheep

The Associated Press has the story:
Billions of dollars have been stolen in religion-related fraud in recent years, according to the North American Securities Administrators Association, a group of state officials who work to protect investors.

Between 1984 and 1989, about $450 million was stolen in religion-related scams, the association says. In its latest count — from 1998 to 2001 — the toll had risen to $2 billion. Rip-offs have only become more common since. ...

Lambert Vander Tuig, a member of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., ran a real estate scam that bilked investors out of $50 million, the Securities and Exchange Commission says. His salesmen presented themselves as faithful Christians and distributed copies of The Purpose Driven Life, by Saddleback pastor Rick Warren, according to the SEC. Warren and his church had no knowledge of Vander Tuig's activities, says the SEC.
I have long been suspicious of megachurches like Saddleback, and this is a perfect example of the potential problems with such organizations.

Where the naive observer sees a big group of people who all love God and come together to serve Him, scammers see just another big group of suckers. When the Body grows beyond a small, closely knit group into a vast, unwieldy organization that, like Soylent Green, is MADE OF PEOPLE, it has the potential to become a great big sitting target that does little to glorfiy God and much to glorify the Organization itself.

More disturbing, perhaps, is the fact that conmen can have such wild success among those who self-identify as Christians. Imagine what $2 billion could do for the poor in the Third World, or even in New Orleans's Ninth Ward. Imagine what it could do to spread Christ's message of love in the U.S. Heck, imagine how many little communion cups of grape juice it could buy.

So why are these "Christian" businesspeople sinking money into get-rich-quick schemes? How does the pursuit of mammon suddenly trump God's commands for how Christians ought to use their resources?

The scammers use a pretty impressive line with megachurch members. They depend on the "prosperity theology" of people like Benny Hinn and Robert Tilton, along with their gross misreadings of the Bible, to justify this pursuit of money. "Claiming" verses like "Seek first the kingdom of God and all these [material] things shall be added unto you," the predators set up an imaginary world where God's will for His followers is that they be rich, have an olympic-sized pool, drive a Mercedes. And the key to this dreamworld is investing in a real-estate deal, a Ponzi scheme, a promising "Christian" business.

Once again, as with the misguided political machniations of the Religious Right, this is a case of Christians losing sight of the Biblical imperative that Christ's kingdom is not to be of this world. They forget that this world is not the true home of those who place their faith in Christ; our hope lies beyond, and all the material goods we accumulate here will go through the fire and come out on the other side as ashes.

Only through genuine sacrifice and a willingness to surrender all to the God who saved them can Christians experience true success. And that has nothing to do with getting rich in this life.

09 August 2006

Cal Thomas's Problematic Commentary

Note from the LuapHacim, 11/14/2012: The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect my current beliefs and convictions. Even if they do, I would almost certainly express them in different words today. Time changes people, and I am not exempt. Nonetheless, because of its historical value, I will not modify or remove this post. It tells you (and me) something important about where I've been. Read on at your own peril.

In today's Washington Times, Cal Thomas has a column that makes some very dangerous assumptions about U.S. foreign policy. Here's an excerpt:
During World War II, U.S. and German forces fought the battle of Hurtgen Forest. It began Sept. 19, 1944 and ended Feb. 10, 1945. That was one battle in a strategically insignificant corridor of barely 50 square miles east of the Belgium-Germany border. The Germans inflicted more than 24,000 casualties on American forces, while another 9,000 Americans were sidelined due to illness, fatigue and friendly fire. Had live TV beamed this battle to America, there might have been an outcry that the policy was failing and somehow a cease-fire and an accommodation with Hitler should be achieved.
America won that war because the objective wasn't to understand the Nazis, or to reach an accommodation with them; the objective was to win the war. Anything less in this war — against an equally evil and unrelenting enemy — will mean defeat for the United States and for freedom everywhere. That's what Mr. Rumsfeld was getting at when he said, "We can persevere in Iraq or we can withdraw prematurely, until they force us to make a stand nearer home. But make no mistake: They are not going to give up, whether we acquiesce in their immediate demands or not."
Rumsfeld is right.
Thomas here is using the "terrorists are evil like Nazis" rhetorical thread that has become so wildly popular with conservatives during the past five or so years. And on the face of it, the comparison makes sense: both groups are hateful and use vile tactics to accomplish their purposes. But the comparison falls apart if you look at it closely enough: The Nazis had a government; the terrorists have none. The Nazis had a capital and land and clearly delineated allegiances; the terrorists, once again, have none of the above. In its war against the Axis, the United States had specific, well defined criteria for defeating the Nazis. We have none for the conflict in Iraq.

This brings me to my next beef with Thomas's argument: he unquestioningly accepts Rumsfeld's claim that the U.S. occupation of Iraq is somehow connected to that ephemeral creature, the "War on Terror." Moreover, it would appear from Rumsfeld's and Thomas's arguments that, if we pull our (raping, killing) troops out of Iraq, the Iraqis will somehow come out of their country and attack our Freedom. Or something. It's vague.

So, according to this neat rhetorical construct, we have no choice but to continue on in a conflict that has no clearly defined goals or benchmarks for success.

It's like we're stuck in a fight against Nazis, but in this fight, the Nazis are zombies who just keep coming back to life. So it's really like an eternal Nazi zombie fight. Or something. It's vague.

08 August 2006

Finally, a Thinking Evangelical!

Sorry about the hiatus; I was at Bible camp all week. Trying to get back into the swing of things now...

The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting review of historian Randall Balmer's new book, Thy Kingdom Come: An Evangelical's Lament. An excerpt:
"[R]ight-wing zealots have distorted the gospel of Jesus Christ, defaulted on the noble legacy of 19th-century evangelical activism, and failed to appreciate the genius of the First Amendment," he says. What the Religious Right hankers for is "the kind of homogeneous theocracy that the Puritans tried to establish."
It's really interesting how those who have taken the time to study the actual history of the Evangelical movement in America are the ones who are the most puzzled about where we're going, politically and socially.

What happened to the freedom of conscience espoused by early leaders like Roger Williams? What happened to the individual's decision to follow God or the World? They've been lost in the rhetoric of "reclaiming America for God," which is a very dangerous notion, to my way of thinking.